Shameful Dishonouring of Women: Manipur
Problems in Manipur
Whenever the sensibilities of individuals and societies are ignored inappropriately wherever, or one community is given preference over the other, situations like Manipur surface. Manipur has been having decades of inequality in dealing with different communities by all previous govts who never took cognisance of the brewing problems. The problems of Manipur have been inequalities in the distribution of resources, in giving legitimacy, ingress of illegal migrants and the nexus of the drug cartels with the administration and politicians. Manipur used to have about 65% Meitis (mostly Hindus) and 35% Kukis & Nagas (mostly Christians) as original tribal natives from the times of independence. The cause of major contention is that a smaller % of Kuki-Zo-Naga control 90% of land against 10% of land available to Meitis. Worse, Meitis are not permitted to buy/acquire land on hills. There has been a spate of violence among the tribes since 1990s; with Kuki groups with Myanmar & Chinese assistance demanding secession. Kuki group of insurgents are waging war on the Myanmar Govt esp after the democratically elected govt was suspended. More movements of these groups have been reported in recent years esp as no passport/visa applies as per the bilateral accord between India & Burma since 60s. Modi govt made them join peace talks with some pacts/understanding.
The Churches mostly located at hills, had substantial clout and influence over local people and indulged in encroachment and conversions of the other tribes; thus disturbing the religious demography. Presently there are a total of 32 lakh population with ~60% Meitis and 40% Kuki-Naga. Congress in decades of their rule denied a rightful tribal identity to the Meitis thus denying them the sops of govt jobs and right to own land on hills. In addition, illegal migrants started gaining entry from Myanmar and Bangladesh, forming illegal settlements and also encroaching on the public land with the collusion of local govts as 'vote-bank'. Further, drug cartels have been operating with ease under corrupt govts offering favour. The latter two have been having a tough time in BJP govt that is trying to control illegal migration and drug cartel menace since 2017. Kukis and their supporters traditionally have been looking for excuses to create unrest. There have been long periods of unrest, arsons and violence in the 90s too. Although literacy in the state is reasonable, tribal culture has elements of differently civilised & cultured behaviours. Violence for trivial cause and sexual behaviours a bit more promiscuous or adulterous is acceptable in their societies.
After Imphal HC verdict to include Meitis inclusion in the ST list, Kukis created havoc, chaos, arson and violence on 3-4 My 2023. It drew Meiti retaliation with many dead and numerous displaced/fled/relocated to save lives. the State Govt successfully controlled the violence of 3-4 May 2023, but isolated sporadic incidents continued. Home Minister Amit Shah himself took stock of the situation and also called an all-party meeting to discuss the events unfolding. However, party politics has been continuing esp by the vote-bank politicians. Many of them wanted the CM to resign and the Modi govt to take the onus of responsibility. While sporadic violence still continue off and on, a video of 2 Kuki girls being chased naked and molested has surfaced in social media after 74 days of the incident that has created a storm in public eyes.
Presently, the politicians, media, women's bodies have all woken up to a yell in chorus from their rooftops of the May 3 incident, highly condemnable though. It needs investigation for clarity as to how this video clip was uploaded on social media after 2½ months of its occurrence, and with what intent. This happened just before the parliament session for the opposition political parties to take a dig at Modi govt and on all platforms.
It has to be realised that the present spate of violence was started by Kukis after the High Court verdict to include Meiti tribe in the ST reservation list. The unrest spread like wild fire in several districts with occasional retaliation from Meiti community too. It was a chaos of riots that indulged in loot, arson, violence and deaths. Kukis though in the minority, had automatic rifles and explosives; targeting Meiti people and houses with impunity. It was only when the persecuted community retaliated that they started playing victimhood. Churches, drug-peddlers and illegal Myanmar/ Rohingya/ Bangladeshi migrants sided with Kukis in their nefarious game. This group had been looking for an opportunity to create problems against Manipur govt which has been acting against drug-peddlers and started anti-encroachment drives that infuriated the Churches and illegal migrants. This was just like anti-CAA arson/agitation started by radical Muslims and Muslim-appeasing political groups post-SC verdict on Triple Talaq & Ayodhya, and tha law on Art 370 abrogation that nearly paralysed the nation. In Manipur on 19 Apr 2023 Imphal HC verdict gave that excuse. The chronology of events that unfolded subsequently is given in the text box below.
Opposition Taking Political Mileage
Dishonouring of women happened on both sides during those frenzy moments of 3 & 4 May 23. One such video of Kuki women being chased naked was uploaded on social media after 75 days, providing fodder to vote-bank politicians for partisan political gimmicks to start. Since Kukis are Christians, numerous churches, Christian bodies and even Christian nations found it convenient to corner Modi govt for mishandling the issue at both State and Centre.
Looking back, it is felt that the State Govt should have been more firm in handling the Kuki protest on 3rd May when section 144 was in force. The considerate relaxation to the protest led to state-wide arson and retaliation. The State Govt was caught unaware of 'post-CAA like situation' that Kukis had colluded with others. As is apparent in the chronology, the State Govt controlled 3-4 May violence swiftly through the deployment of the security forces. In those moments of arson and lawlessness lot many incidents took place that was difficult to control. It is believed that many weaker groups of men, women and children were chased by the warring groups. It was almost impossible for the handful of police, paramilitary or Army deployed within a short time. Of course, more forces arrived later but by that time major damage was already done. The video of nude women of one tribe chased by the other in those frenzy moments cannot be termed as a failure of the CM. He did his best to restrain violence within 2-3 days.
Comparing Manipur Frenzy Violence with Others
All must know that frenzy violence in Manipur in which the video clip of naked women being chased surfaced, cannot be compared with naked women being chased or paraded elsewhere in the country where law and order prevailed. There are several instances of women dishonoured in a similar way in Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan or elsewhere. In the relatively calm atmosphere of law and order, if such incidents took place, it is a heinous crime and failure of govt. It is another matter though that the same politicians were mum and insensitive when women in their respective states were/are being dishonoured under their jurisdictions. Shamefully Mamata Banerjee chooses to remain mum to the incident of women of the other party workers were paraded naked by her own TMC goons. Post-election violence of 2021 in Bengal is still fresh in our minds when several women of BJP workers were paraded naked and raped by TMC goons. Recently women were dragged naked in Bengal during Panchayat elections. However, Mamata remains silent both in words and actions against her goons. It is another matter though that BJP leadership also remains docile and didn’t treat Mamata or her party workers the same way during/after elections in Goa or Tripura (read “Intolerance against BJP workers: Weakness of JP Nadda?”).
The present response of opposition-ruled state govts are surprising, filled with duplicity be it Bengal, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Bihar as well as some of the ex-ruing parties in UP (like Congress and Samajwadi parties) and elsewhere where their own actions on 'women dishonouring' were far from satisfactory. Today, Rajasthan is the worst state for Hindu women's safety in the hands of Jihadists to which Rajasthan Congress remains partisan, turning a blind eye. Rajasthan Congress has become an expert in crime against women to the extent that when their own minister raised the issue, he was sacked by CM Ashok Gehlot. Rights of freedom of expression has taken a severe beating in that state. It is a fact that most of the north Indian States of Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, UP, Rajasthan have very scant respect for women's rights and honours. Some such instances are enumerated below in the form of clippings of the print media of those times.
In the present moments of Manipur noise, opponents of BJP have made it a common ground to ignore their own sins committed against women and bark in chorus stalling parliamentary discussions. They know that if the discussion takes place, their own sins too will be highlighted and they will lose moral ground hence, not let it happen. In the parliament, if they press for the resignation of the Manipur CM, they too will be on a slippery wicket for numerous acts of women dishonouring in Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Rajasthan.
Further Course of Actions
The State govt has its tasks cut out. They must restore the law and order and start series of investigations by state police as well as by central agencies. There could be an angle of any international conspiracy too. Biren Singh govt has to bring confidence to the citizen to go back to their respective homes which if damaged/burnt, be erected at state expenditure. Govt must continue clearing encroachments and catching the drug cartel. At the same time, Meitis must get their ST status long denied to them. The influx of illegal migrants must stop. If required, a credible NRC may be instituted. The confidence of mutual coexistence of the two major communities Meitis and Kukis must be restored although it is easier said than done. The opposition parties of Modi must stop petty politics in Manipur. The state needs a healing touch than the incitement that they are committing. CM Biren Singh has put commendable efforts and he must be encouraged to carry on with it.
Manipur has a long history of neglect during decades of Congress regimes. They have pitted one tribal community against another in mutual hate and distrust. While Kuki enjoys all sops of being ST, Meitis have long been denied it. Now when Imphal HC ruled on the case, Kukis duly supported by Naga, illegal migrants and drug peddlers possibly assisted by the Churches have created violence, arson and division. This may be a joint strategy of the land encroachers, churches, illegal migrants & drug peddlers against whom the present state govt has launched a drive. They have also found the voice of the vote-bank politicians supporting them. Surely, the dishonouring of the two women cannot be justified, but the partisan and biased chorus of the opponents of Modi is unacceptable either.